“It Is High Time India Made Strides To Criminalise Marital Rape”

Rape is a horrific crime that continues to be a stigma in our society.

Marriage is a sacred bond between two souls. In our patriarchal society, a woman who has entered a marital relationship is expected to commit to the physical, emotional and even sexual contentment of her spouse. This type of social expectation has been continuing for ages. However drastic the changes in our society, we have still not got over these age-old stigmas. A woman still owes her sexual autonomy to her husband. Nobody cares about what she wants.

The definition of rape codified in Section 375 of the IPC includes all forms of sexual assault, including non-consensual intercourse. However, Exception 2 to Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse between a married couple when a wife is over 15 years of age from the definition of rape, in effect allowing marital rape of girls above 15. Under such circumstances, doesn’t the criminalisation of marital rape seem like a distant dream in our country? Wake up, Indians!

Isn’t it time India criminalised marital rape? REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

In the twenty-first century, why should we stand by and let the dignity of women smashed into pieces by their husbands? The judiciary believes that criminalisation of marital rape would lead to destabilisation of the society. Secondly, it would defile the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. Next, our government feels that a huge number of fraudulent cases would come out if marital rape is criminalised. But if such conservative and orthodox views are reflected in important verdicts given by the justice system, then exemplary verdicts would never be published in a society which is famous for its distinctive culture worldwide.

These views need to change if women are to be honoured in this country. We cannot think of marriage as scared and remain callous about an issue that violates the dignity of a married woman.

The fact that marital rape is not being seen as rape in the eyes of our society shows how regressive and archaic our society is! It is this patriarchal culture that encourages a man to indulge in such violent and oppressive behaviour towards his wife. But this is a violation of our fundamental rights, which are meant to ensure that a human being is allowed to live with dignity and identity. It allows for the freedom of life with choices and individuality.

Sexual autonomy is, without a doubt, an individual choice. Only when two partners are given equal rights over their bodies does marriage attain its true meaning. A woman who is repeatedly raped in a marriage is a rape victim, but she has to seal her lips and go on living with her rapist husband her entire life—simply because society refuses to listen.

Thus, strict laws should be implemented in such cases to liberate a married woman. Articles 375 and 376, with its Exception 2 to marital rape should be reviewed to retain the dignity and freedom of a married woman. It is time that the nation as a whole took a stride towards criminalisation of marital rape. In fact, it is a need of the hour for women empowerment in our patriarchal society. Marital rape should be curbed immediately to stop the bizarre cycle of lovemaking in a loveless marriage. Exemplary punishment should be meted out to such rapists who don’t know the value of a woman’s consent.

Similar Posts

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below